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Trident cuts plan backed by Britain's top brass

Royal United Services Institute firmly reject Tory 'part-time deterrent' claims

Lib Dem plans for cutting the costs of Britain's nuclear weapons programme have found favour among the military top brass.

In a paper published yesterday the Royal United Services Institute firmly rejected Tory claims that ending around-the-clock nuclear-armed patrols amounted to an inadequate "part-time deterrent."

Lib Dem Cabinet Minister Danny Alexander has faced flak from all sides for proposing cost-cutting schemes including ending the policy of constant sea patrols known as "continuous at-sea deterrent."

But Institute analyst Hugh Chalmers agreed with Mr Alexander, saying such a scheme would still "help to deter" other nations from threatening Britain with a nuclear strike.

"If it were seen to be capable of deploying its nuclear forces in a crisis, the very existence of such a force could have the effect of dissuading a potentially hostile state from threatening or blackmailing the UK and its allies," he said.

The ageing fleet of Trident submarines - docked in Scotland's Faslane naval base - is due for a £65bn replacement scheme before 2016 in order to remain functional, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Anti-war and anti-austerity movements have pressed Westminster to abandon the project instead with researchers estimating the full cost of the programme to reach £100bn over its lifetime, while the Scottish government has vowed to eject the fleet following a vote for independence in September - a move which experts say would leave the programme without an acceptable base of operations anywhere in Britain.

CND general secretary Kate Hudson said yesterday that any decision to upgrade Trident remained "strategically illiterate and economically disastrous."

But it was "refreshing to see genuine consideration and analysis of reductions."

"The real issue is why we need any nuclear weapons at all.

"It is scandalous that a government which is inflicting the deepest cuts to public services in British history should be blowing over £100bn on a cold war status symbol which serves no purpose, defends us from no one, and encourages nuclear proliferation around the world," she said.

Meanwhile Tory Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stuck to his uranium-enriched guns, insisting that "no alternative would be as effective" as the full replacement.

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